The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England this morning, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business, much of which has nothing to do with women bishops.
Agenda for February 2012 General Synod
16 January 2012
Women bishops central to General Synod agenda that includes debates on assisted dying, health care, House of Lords reform, and Eucharistic prayers for use when children are present
The General Synod will meet at Church House from 2.15 pm on Monday 6 February until late-afternoon Thursday 9 February.
The Synod will be spending a significant amount of time on the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. This will be the present Synod’s first opportunity to engage with that process since it was elected 18 months ago.
There will be four separate items of business dealing with different aspects of this complicated process, on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. These include fine-tuning of the draft Measure and consideration of making specific requests to the House of Bishops in relation to the next stage of the process in May. In addition, the Synod will have a presentation and opportunity for questions on the report from a working group on an illustrative draft Code of Practice that would be made once the legislation had been approved. These debates lead towards a possible final debate in July.
Other items of legislative business include the approval of an Order that completes a new framework for the charging of fees for weddings, funerals etc and the revision of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.
Legislation is an important function of the Synod but not the only one. Its Constitution says its second main function is ‘to consider and express their opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest’. There are some quite important matters of religious and public interest on the agenda for February.
On the Monday, Synod will be asked to approve the sending of a Loyal Address to H. M. the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. By coincidence there will be an added poignancy in the fact that 6 February will be the 60th anniversary of King George VI’s death and therefore of The Queen’s Accession. Synod will also be invited to approve the appointment of a new member of the Archbishops’ Council, whose name will be announced nearer the time.
Synod will have the opportunity to debate an important matter of religious and public interest in the Private Members Motion on the issue of assisted suicide. Also of interest will be a presentation on the Tuesday about the Anglican Alliance for Relief, Development and Advocacy. This was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury and grew out of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. It aims to co-ordinate the work of the Anglican Communion internationally on relief and development issues.
On the Tuesday evening members of the Synod will join members of the United Reformed Church for a service in Westminster Abbey marking both the 350th anniversary of the departure from the Established Church of those who felt unable to accept ordination by bishops and use the Book of Common Prayer and also the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the United Reformed Church, which took place in the Abbey.
There is a significant matter of internal Synod business on Wednesday, 8 February. Up to now, the Chair of the Business Committee which sets the Synod’s agenda has been appointed from among the six members directly elected to the Archbishops’ Council. That is a very narrow pool and it is now proposed that in future the Chair of the Business Committee should be elected by and from among the whole Synod. There are a number of other miscellaneous amendments to the Standing Orders.
Synod is in the process of authorizing new Eucharistic Prayers for use at services at which there are significant numbers of children present – at a Communion service in a church school, for example. They have been revised in the light of members’ comments and the Synod will consider the revised texts on Thursday 9 February.
The Synod will also receive a presentation about how the Church plans to respond to changes in the funding of higher education which will have a significant impact on the cost of training new clergy. At present, ordinands receive degrees and certificates from 19 different universities. The proposal is that the Church of England, with its partner churches, should establish a single suite of HE awards with a single set of validation arrangements. Some ordinands will continue to study for general theology degrees of universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, but for those on courses leading to a qualification specifically designed for ordinands there will only be one set of qualifications.
Finally, on the Thursday afternoon there will be a debate on the reform of the House of Lords and a debate about Health Care. The Church of England has always had a strong commitment to the ideals of the NHS. The debate will give the Synod an opportunity to offer a public expression of the Church’s concerns and priorities in the light of its vocation to seek health and healing. There is a particular call in the motion for chaplaincy provision to remain part of the core structure of the NHS, a position recently backed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. There is also a commendation of the work of Anglican agencies and networks in promoting health and wholeness worldwide.
Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website (www.churchofengland.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions.
A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page www.churchofengland.org), and audio files of debates, along with updates on each day’s proceedings, will be posted during the sessions.